Archive for May, 2013

A perfect start to our 20th season

May 16, 2013 154Our 20th season started off with a bang. This past week has been spectacular for whale watching in the San Juan Islands.  It started off with an amazing humpback whale sighting.  We traveled northwest into Canadian waters to get to this beautiful animal.  This humpback whale put on quite a show for everybody.  Shortly after we got there, it jumped out of the water completely.  What an enormous splash it made after that breach.  It then proceeded to show us its pectoral fins, swam upside down and fluked multiple times.  After we left the humpback whale, we saw harbor porpoise by the dozens.May 4, 2013 026

We have also been seeing minke whales, these are a baleen whale that are just now returning to these waters after a winter long absence.  We had some really nice passes, allowing for great photos.  We were also able to see some Steller sea lions on whale rocks, one of my favorite animals that we have here in the San Juans.  At ten to twelve feet long and weighing almost 2000 pounds, these guys are absolutely huge.

Whale and wildlife watching can be wonderful rain or shine.Typically Friday Harbor and the San Juan Islands get about half of the rain that Seattle sees. However, we do get the clouds at times and a few of the days this past week were no exception. That didn’t dampen our spirits as we headed out to look for wildlife.  We had no whale reports when we left the dock, so we decided to go where we went the day before to look for minke whales.  We had just got to Cattle Pass, which separates Lopez Island and San Juan Island’s southern shores, when we got word from another whale watching vessel that he had found some transients orcas, not far from where we were!  We headed right there and in about 20 minutes we started seeing the dorsal fins and splashes from the killer whales.  These whales were in a great mood!  From the time that we got there until the time we left, they were breaching, tail lobbing, spy hopping and doing every other type of surface behavior that whales do.  We identified these whales as T49B and T65A groups of transients.  We stopped off at whale rocks to see the Steller sea lions and the harbor seals.  There was even a bald eagle sitting on one of the rocks.  Yet another successful day aboard the Odyssey.
May 12, 2013 445

During mid-week we got a report that all members of J Pod had returned to the Salish Sea. What great news to hear these animals are back home. So on the morning of the 16th, we were all prepared to have our first encounter of the season with J pod.  There was an early report of orcas up in Georgia Strait and we all assumed that it must be J pod.  We started heading towards East Point on Saturna Island and received word that it wasn’t resident orcas, but more transients.  So, we were a little bit disappointed that we weren’t going to see J pod, but still excited to see orcas.  Then another group of orcas was found and it was a larger group.  We thought that this must be J pod, so we turned the Odyssey and headed towards that group.  While we were on route, the vessel that found the second group told us that it wasn’t J pod either, but a group of fifteen or more transients.  Oh well, here we go; it’s still orcas and a large number of them to boot!  We got out into Rosario Strait and met up with the transient group of orcas.  It was a bright sunshiny day and the whales were awesome.  We watched the T100s, which included one really big male.  There were very few boats and the weather was beautiful.  As we were about to leave, we saw another blow up ahead of the transients!  It was humpback whale!  The transient orcas circled it a couple of times then kept on going.  Being able to witness orca whales, minke whales, humpback whales, sea lions, seals, eagles, multiple birds and the views of Mt. Baker and the Olympic Mountains is why we love our jobs and these beautiful islands. It’s been a perfect week and what a spectacular way to start our 2013 season.

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